An Intentional Life: Food, Weight, & Me
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Long-time readers of this blog are no strangers to my never-ending battle with the bulge.
As a kid I was definitely on the “hefty/chubby” side of the body scale.
Right from the beginning I had a tremendous headstart on my cohort as I clocked in at 10 lbs even at birth (I like to think it was all grey matter).
However, after you look at the following picture, you will probably draw the same conclusion as my daughter, and dismiss my grey matter theory altogether.
Part of my issues with weight was growing up in an Indian household where it seems that a mother is not happy unless she has a chubby baby which leads to a chubby toddler, chubby teen, and so forth.
It is no wonder why I have struggled in the past with the sin of Gluttony as my habit of overeating as an adult can be traced back to when I was a toddler trapped in a high chair and my mom continuing to shovel spoonfuls of food into my mouth until a more than an average portion size was consumed.
The Cursed Yo-Yo.
Down (-50 lbs)
It was in college when I first thought enough was enough and actually took steps to break from the bonds of being overweight (I was in the mid 210s range)S.
The real inspiration behind this was obvious enough at the time, I wanted to make myself more attractive to the fairer sex.
[It is amazing how a lot of things that I have become quite good at (playing piano, playing guitar, and cooking) had an XX chromosome as the impetus.]
In my second year, I started jogging on the campus track and trying to eat better.
Pretty soon I was doing 4 miles a day and could see my body transform into something far more respectable.
I ended up shedding 50 lbs and got down to weighing 172 lbs (I’m a little over 5’10).
Up (+30 lbs).
I maintained this new weight throughout medical school but then came the first yo-yo, becoming a surgery resident for 2 years.
Like many who struggle with weight, I turn to food for comfort in stressful situations.
Being a general surgery resident prior to federal hour restrictions was just a pressure cooker of stress for me.
To make matters worse, the hospital for my residency, located in the south, was quite generous towards its residents and physicians by providing all food and drink complimentary.
Unlike typical hospital cafeteria food, the quality of the food provided at my residency was incredible.
I was first introduced to shrimp and grits and true southern biscuits and gravy courtesy of the hospital cafeteria and packed on the pounds as a result.
Also the surgery residents were treated to frequent drug rep lunches and dinners where local restaurant food would be brought in such as southern BBQ.
So it was only inevitable that I started packing on the pounds.
I am guessing by the time I left surgery for residency I was pushing in the mid 190s-low 200s.
Down (-20 lbs).
Coming to my senses and transferring into a radiology residency did wonders for my mental and physical well-being.
My clinical hours had dramatically improved from my sometimes 130-140 hour surgery work week.
No longer stressed, and, as a radiology resident, no longer being courted by drug reps, I no longer overindulged in food.
I began cycling, kayaking, and running on the treadmill and once again saw the weight drop down.
I can’t recall my exact weight during this time, but in the mid 180s would be a good guess.
Up (+40 lbs).
Unfortunately this happy state did not last as I was about to enter the darkest chapter of my life.
[I would gladly go through a 100 surgery residencies if I could have avoided this.]
Food again became my only solace.
Needless to say, after 7 years of an incredibly unhappy marriage, I ballooned back to the heaviest weight I have been (in the 220s).
Even after the divorce papers it took over 2 years before I could extricate myself from the funk I was in.
Even though I was freshly single, I didn’t want to date or have anything to do with a woman during this time as I had so much emotional baggage weighing me down.
And at the 2 year mark, what changed?
You guessed it, the desire to have female companionship again.
Down (-40 lbs).
Picking myself up from the couch, I was determined to regain my old form again and began an exercise program with an elliptical I now had at home.
When I set my mind to something, it usually gets accomplished as I become laser focused.
Pounds were shed and I got back to a weight class I was more comfortable to be in (low/mid 180s).
I felt better and I was now fit enough to toss all the emotional baggage I had been carrying aside.
I began dating again, eventually finding “my person” whom I proposed to on our 5th anniversary of dating.
Up (+20 lbs).
Life happens and things get busy, especially when I regained full custody of my daughter.
My daughter became a priority and as previously mentioned in my “The Double Edged Sword Of Momentum,” a lot of her after school activities interfered with my preferred time slot for exercise (6-7 pm).
So my previously regular exercise schedule became a lot more irregular.
But I was happy having her back in my life and having a”dad bod” again was a worthy sacrifice to make it happen.
Despite this, I will still able to keep my weight fluctuating in the high 180s/mid 190s range and accepted that as the new norm for me.
The end of 2019 was a perfect storm for me, chronicled in my “When A White Christmas Turns To Grey” post.
The radiology department was going gangbusters with the highest volumes seen, making my partner and I feel like we were in a post office with never ending mail to sort.
It was quite stressful during this time period and I am sure my Cortisol levels were through the roof.
This timeframe also coincided with the usual contributors for weight gain:
- Back to back to back October birthdays of loved ones (fiancee, daughter, mother)
- Radiology Tech week which is the one time vendors lavish the department with tons of food.
- Christmas celebrations.
- New Years celebrations.
The sedentary lifestyle of a blogger (and radiologist for that matter) also did not help.
I also found out that, at the age of 49, I was not able to bounce back as quickly as I had in the past, being stuck on several weight plateaus despite doing similar exercises on the elliptical that had saved me previously.
I soon found myself breaking past the 200 lb barrier and topping at 206 lbs (the heaviest I had been since the divorce).
An unusual weight loss ally.
It is interesting but the inciting factor that set in motion my current quest to get back to a healthy lifestyle and weight is notoriously known for causing the opposite, COVID-19.
I touched on how COVID-19 jump started my transformation in, “Shelter No More: What I Learned From My ‘Furlough‘.”
I am pleased to say that even after the “Furlough” went away, I continued in earnest to follow through the healthy lifestyle kick that had been started.
A new weapon added to my weight loss armamentarium.
It is funny how things in one aspect of life can beneficially bleed into other areas.
In this case I implemented a personal finance concept that had proven quite valuable.
I started really analyzing how I was spending my money and whether or not what that money was used for brought me happiness and if so whether that happiness was short lived or long.
With Intentional Spending I soon realized that experiences truly brought me the longest lived happiness.
Therefore vacations and special events with loved ones commanded the majority of my discretionary dollars.
Keeping up with the latest tech, as hard as it is to say being a radiologist, did not have much stamina in the happiness meter, and those purchases therefore fell by the wayside.
Could an “Intentional Lifestyle” be incorporated into other aspects of my life?
I decided to give it a go and transmorph this financial concept into a weight loss one by using “Intentional Eating.”
Similar to the financial version, I analyzed food that was laid out before me and asked myself will this bring me joy to justify the caloric cost.
Snacking just for the sake of snacking or eating food out of boredom became a thing of the past once I committed to Intentional Eating.
I did not deny myself of having wonderful tasting meals or great food experiences (much like I didn’t force myself to live in austerity when doing Intentional Spending).
I just eliminated the stuff that did not move the needle much.
And you know what?
Intentional Eating coupled with my regular exercise routine helped me bust through any of the weight plateaus I had formerly been stuck on.
Intentional eating more than compensated for my age-related slowing of my metabolism.
And the best part of it was, I was fine giving up the stuff that I did.
I was not hungrier or had any cravings for stuff beyond what I ate.
As of the day I am writing this post, I have lost 26 lbs, tipping the scales at 179.0 lbs, the lowest I have been since college.
During the process I have dropped 6% body fat, going from 31% to 25.0% (still on the high side but not as bad).
My muscle mass has bumped up by around 2%, now at 34.3%.
My BMI checks in at 25.5 (I’m using the big boned excuse).
And my visceral (i.e bad intra-abdominal fat) has gone from a 12 down to a 10 (ideally would like to be in the single digits (I have just achieved a score of “9” for my visceral fat just the day before this post went live)).
[These above metrics were obtained with my super fancy body compensation home scale I have previously written about.]
No, no amount of Intentional Eating and/or Exercise combination will have you mistaking me for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in my lifetime, but that was never my goal in the first place.
[It is much like my financial goal was never to be mentioned in the same circles as Buffet (Jimmy or Warren) or Bill Gates.]
The food gauntlet ahead.
It just so happens that I am about to enter the season of temptation as the last half of October kicks it off with 3 birthdays to celebrate.
I have been already been giving myself some trial runs testing my willpower including buying my entire department pizza and not having a single slice (including the leftovers that I took home for my daughter).
I keep reminding myself that the happiness I feel now at this weight trumps the brief happiness I get when I overindulge with food.
Wish me luck!
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Even a steadfast DIY’er can sometimes gain benefit from the occasional professional input.
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